The Mountaineers came back, notching eight straight points to make it 22-20 with 6:05 left in the half. Neither team failed to score for over two minutes before Kea hit a mid-range jumper. The Mountaineers answered with a three from Nicola Mathews to cut the deficit to one. A few possessions later, the Mountaineers took a 26-24 lead after another made three.
With less than a minute remaining in the half, Kea found Cherry for her third three and UNC retook the lead at 27-26.
Turnovers and missed shots highlighted the start of the second half, with neither team scoring in the opening three minutes. Sophomore guard Taylor Koenen landed the first blow of the second half on a layup. The Mountaineers answered on the next possession to cut the lead back to one.
The Tar Heels clung to a one-point lead, but a Mountaineer jump shot put the Tar Heels behind with less than three minutes left in the third quarter at 31-30. Kea was fouled with 2:57 left in the quarter, but only made one free throw to tie the game. The next time down the court, the Mountaineers converted a layup to go up 33-31. Kea tied the game right back, soaring into the lane and hanging in the air before hitting a short jumper.
The Mountaineers had a chance to retake the lead with 1:19 left in the third, but the Tar Heel defense forced a shot clock violation. Kea punished the Mountaineers for failing to convert, finding a wide-open Koenen under the basket for a layup to retake the lead. The Mountaineers failed to score again and Kea promptly swished a three to put the Tar Heels up five. The Tar Heels led 38-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter started much like the third, with neither team scoring for almost two minutes. Koenen opened the scoring in the final frame, connecting on one-of-two free throws with 8:21 left. The teams traded baskets and with 6:50 remaining the Tar Heels led 41-35.
The two teams traded baskets before Cherry stepped to the line with 5:21 left. She converted both free throws to give UNC a 45-37 lead. With 3:44 remaining, Kea hit a three with a hand in her face to give UNC it’s largest lead of the game, 48-37.
After the Mountaineers responded with a basket, Cherry connected on her fourth three-pointer to make it 51-39 with 3:07 remaining.
The Mountaineers went on a 4-0 run culminating with a made layup with 1:01 left to make it 54-43. The Mountaineers intentionally fouled Kea on the next possession, but the guard converted both free throws.
Neither team scored again, and the Tar Heels won 56-43.
Who stood out?
Kea and Cherry led the way for the Tar Heels.
Kea finished with a game-high 20 points and added five assists. Cherry was just as effective, notching 17 points and hitting four threes.
Koenen filled up the score sheet with seven points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
When was it decided?
The Mountaineers led 33-31 with just 2:20 left in the third quarter. The Tar Heels responded with a 7-0 run to make it a five-point lead heading into the final frame. The lead never got closer than four, as the Tar Heels coasted to the double-digit win in the final period.
Why does it matter?
After struggling to a 2-2 record out of the gates, the Tar Heels have now won four consecutive games to improve their record to 6-2 on the season.
This was the team’s third game in five days.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels face Presbyterian College on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Carmichael Arena.